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Written on your chromosomes? False perceptions of sexuality, femininity and being a woman

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In a recent article in the Globe and Mail it was argued that women's sexuality is "malleable," but that men are "either/or."  McGinn did include quotes from researchers who argued that this difference is cultural (societal seems more accurate), but these points are given only cursory attention, presented as unknown and impossible to prove.  The alternative argument, the argument that women are "more intrinsically bisexual" and that men are "category-specific", is given the majority of the article, and presented more or less as fact.  And worth noting, although unsurprising, is the fact that all of the researchers that are quoted as having proven that men are biologically either straight or gay are men.  All of those whose studies say sexuality is less easily defined, for both men and women..... all women. 

My disappointment when reading the article was both with the article itself, and the biased and ill-informed argument that it presented to a national audience, but also with the societal issues at the heart of the argument, and the fact that there is an interested audience, leading to it being published at all. 

Let me be open about the context and perspective from which I read the article, and from which I write this blog - - as a queer woman who has had meaningful and loving relationships with men in the past, I am all for fluid sexuality.  All for bisexuality.  All for women and men questioning their sexuality, experimenting with it, refusing to define it.  I take no issue with the argument that for some people sexuality is fluid and for others it is "either/or."  I embrace it in fact, I advertise it.

What I take issue with is the argument that men are one way and women the other.  That men are biologically determined as either straight or gay, but that women are biologically bisexual.  To me that argument smacks of internalised male homophobia and the sexual objectification of lesbians.  And to me it is clearly a laughable argument, so despite the fact that it was given a central role in McGinn's article, I think it should be dismissed as unfounded while we take the critique deeper.

The issues that deserve greater attention are the underlying issues, the structural issues that are behind this unfounded presentation of false 'fact'  Which to me are two-fold, firstly that 'real' men are supposed to be masculine (what does masculine really mean?!), and by contrast therefore gay men are supposed to be feminine (what does feminine really mean?!).  Which the male researchers quoted in the article argue is why men are either gay or straight, one or the other, rarely both.  And secondly, and of more relevance to this audience, is the argument that women are not subject to homophobia, that women's bisexuality comes without judgement, shame, or pain.  That it is accepted, even embraced.

In attempting to present this counter argument, the "culture" argument, McGinn says that "living in a homophobic society may prevent boys from experimenting."  By extension the author is saying that women are somehow immune to this homophobia.  Women don't face the same pressure to be 'feminine' apparently.  Women are free, while men are constrained.

Right?

Obviously not. 

Thank you for reading this story…

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